Friday, 6 January 2012

Ranthambhore, Day 2

(Continued from Ranthambhore Day One)

The day we reached Ranthambhore, my father had made himself a 7-layer burrito out of bed linens and blankets and slipped himself into the core of it. His mouth emerged just once from his self-imposed cocoon-doom to declare "too cold" before going back in for the rest of the stay, emerging only occasionally to eat.

7-Layer Dad Burrito

Since my sister was also unwell the second morning, our party of five, had dwindled to a party of three and I almost canceled the safari. The experience with the previous guide left me cold about the possibility of actually even trying to find a tiger. Reluctantly I went through the motions of gathering the Pug Mark issue blankets and stood waiting in the foyer. Again. Again, for a long while. This time, we had a smaller canter and we almost left as soon as we sat down. Interesting. But I am not getting my hopes up. 

Once at the entrance, we went through the usual identification verification process, except for one twist. The "attendance taker" kept wanting to give me a second identity. You see, we had already identified ourselves as XYZ: party-of-five-now-dwindled-down-to-three and he had nodded recognition at each of us. Then he looked at me again and said "Jamie?" I shook my head "no". Anyone can make a mistake, it's early by human standards after all. The caucasian lady behind me had an amused grin as she came forth to identify herself as Jamie. The next name was that of an Indian woman, UVW. He looked at me again and raised his eyebrows. Again I shook my head "no". Seriously? The third name was ABC Singh. Believe it or not, he looked at me again with raised eyebrows. 
What the what? First I was Jamie, then Maami, now I am a man??? And this after I had already identified myself as one of party XYZ. 
I sat looking at him for a moment before I shook my head "no". This must have had the effect coffee on the man and presumably, he realized what he was doing. The rest of the list was read out and acknowledged hurriedly without me being involved in it.

We were but a minute into the forest, when we sensed a difference in the mood. There was a lot of Getting Together of Guides and Talking Amongst Them! More importantly, our guide actually seemed to be into it. He did not have the "been-there-done-that-bought-the-T-shirt-couldn't-care-if-you-haven't" attitude of the guide of the previous day.  He actually cared, and seemed to enjoy his job. Long story short, we were off in hot pursuit of a tiger, very very soon.

The first encouraging sign we saw was a pug mark. A large one. An impressive one. And then several more. Obviously somebody had walked this way at some time. Question was, when?
Interesting. But I am not getting my hopes high. I am not. I wont even take a picture of this pug mark. I wont.

And then it happened, completely suddenly, a flash. Unlike William Blake's euphoric outpouring, the tiger, tiger, wasn't burning bright. It was more like a blink-and-you-miss-it, event. We didn't blink, we didn't miss. All except one unfortunate woman in the canter.
But, in order not jinx anything, I preferred to play the role of the proverbial mathematician in that joke involving goats (or was it cows?). I agreed to believe that, there exists one animal in this forest whose right flank has tiger like markings. That's it. I was determined not to hope for a proper sighting. Like Nagesh in Tiruvilayaadal, "enakkilla, enakilla" (not for me, not for me).

Everybody fell silent, unbidden. Again a sambhar barked, which someone mistook for the tiger's roar. Our guide immediately disabused him of that idea and we were on our way again. By now, my glutes-abs routine was perfected and although we were rattling along the road like never before, I retained saddle most of the time. I had also become expert at ducking my head to prevent myself from being decapitated by the low lying tree branches. Then it happened again. This one was smaller. We later realized it was a she. She was walking up the mountain. I was a kid on Navarathri break again! As, it would seem, was the entire canter. Including the English blokes who had managed to keep their proverbial English cool until then. Again, it was only a glimpse.

We waited for a while peeling our eyes, looking for any movement in the shrubs. A while and a few false sightings later, our guide calculated that she must be walking the boundary of her territory. "It takes them days to patrol their territory", he said, half to himself, half to us. He drummed his hands, winced his face and made his up mind . Then he gave a few short directions to the driver. We were lurching again, going forward, backing up and sometimes, without warning, abandoning the road altogether.

On one of our random mad rushes, we met another jeep that carried a guy with a binoculars who was gesticulating madly at one of the roads. A few words later, we were hurtling along another path and completely without warning, there she was again! On the right, still too far away. We watched her for a bit. She seemed to know her itinerary well. Too bad she wasn't sharing it with us. She was gone again. The cogs in the mental wheel of our guide was turning again. He must have reached some conclusions, for he directed our driver again and we were off.

Mid way through our revised path plan, another jeep told us to go to the Ranthambhore fort gate, because she seemed to be headed that way.
Aha!.. so while were busy making rattles out of our bones in the jungle, our pretty little tigress was out city slicking!
We made fairly good speed, since part of that road was flat and almost rock free. We reached the gate quickly and waited. No sign of the tigress. There were as many theories as there were people and jeeps in that little congregation of humanity. Finally some guy on foot (wo-ho-w! Brave!) walking a few feet above us on the hill informed us that she was at **** place. **** place looked incongruously like a gram panchayat setting. It was a small clearing with a large banyan tree sitting pat in the center with a nice little cement tree bench surrounding it. Someone in uniform emerged from a small squat cement structure to the right and listened completely uninterestedly to our guide's query. Then, like any person, on any street, in any city, in India responding to a lost tourist's (or local for that matter!) query about any address in the city, he nonchalantly pointed in the general direction of the fortress again and said something that sounded like, "ah, yeah well, I am sure she is somewhere there".

More commotion and confusion later, we were suddenly in her presence. There she was going about her morning patrol right along the side the road, a little into the shrubs completely unperturbed by the delirious humanity that was desperately trying to make eye contact with her. And then, just like that, as if she preferred the relative ease of walking on the roads, she stepped out into the open and walked right by our canters and jeeps. Feast your eyes, my patient readers, I present to you, my city slicker tigress:

She jumped off that ledge and walked by our side for a bit more, before crossing the road and walking off into the forest.

Thanks tigress, stay well and stay safe! Goodnight, sleep tight and don't let them poachers bite!

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Supaandi said...

Effing jealous. Brilliant narration! You go girl

magiceye said...


Agnija Bharathi said...

Next time, you should come along! :)

Agnija Bharathi said...

Thanks, madiceye.

varsha said...

rotfl at the Dad Burrito Diagram !!
jeep safaris are painful in peak winters but the Goddess of the jungle did show her face -no such luck for us in Kanha !

Agnija Bharathi said...

Yeah, I guess it's the luck of the draw, with these safari. We were lucky to be able to see her!

Parthasarathy said...

Yes brilliant Narration as someone commented: first the humans and their peculiar ways, then nature and its kaleidoscopic shows, then the building up of the suspense to the tiger sighting climax ( I sometimes thought this will be a flop and the real sighting will come in sequel 2 ), Finally the splendid shots of the tiger from different angles so no one will think it was a fake. I enjoyed it, now from the safe confine of my home here.
Only one crib. You could have either omitted the Dad description or entered ( Dad of 50 years in Chennai { average summer temp in shade " a cool 40 degree Celsius" as a pilot remarked with glee when once we landed in Chennai after an international flight) now @79+ age in Ranthabore in December 2012.

Agnija Bharathi said...

It was all just in jest 'pa! Just in jest! :)

Magicrna said...

nalla thittu vaanginiya...ha ha :)

Agnija Bharathi said...

Anything to bring magicrna out of retirement.

B.sampath chary said...

Everything is nice.except ur template.change it dude.template really sucks

Agnija Bharathi said...

Thanks for stopping by. I think the template is now more reader friendly.